Furious walkers are campaigning to retrieve a well-known beauty spot in Torquay which has been taken over by an army of electronic bike enthusiasts.
In one incident an elderly woman with her blind and deaf dog were left in tears as they were circled by bikers. In another a walker said he had to hurl himself to the ground as an out-of-control bike crashed through a fence.
It is claimed vans and trailers bring the vehicles – many driven by men – who race at speeds up to 50mph. And some of the younger riders without helmets, tax or insurance drive across the main road from Watcombe.
Easterfield – above King George V playing fields in Watcombe – backs on to the South West Coast Path. There is a BMX track intended for children on push-bikes. But walkers and residents say that increasingly it is being taken over by bikers of all ages riding electronic motorcycles and quad bikes. They believe the site is being advertised on bike enthusiasts’ groups and say vans full of the bikes are now turning up and lining up for races on the fields.
Police and Torbay Council have confirmed that they are jointly looking at measures to tackle the problem.
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Campaigner Colleen Billis, 54, who lives nearby says she has been trying to get the appropriate authorities to recognise the severity of the problem for some time. She believes there is a by-law from 2007 prohibiting motorised vehicles on the fields: “The sign is still there but it has faded in the sum,” she said.
“The by-law was introduced because the people up in Watcombe Heights all complained in 2004 – and when the rich people in Watcombe Heights complain, something happens.
“I have been coming here for 12 years and when I ask the council about the by-law they never get back to me. The lads on their bikes say they have been told to come up here to the BMX track by the police.
“It has got worse recently with vans pulling trailers full of bikes. On Sunday there were three adult bikes lined up at the gate ready for a race. It was a nice sunny day and there were lots of people with children and dogs up here.
“The public are being intimidated by these big groups of big boys and grown men.”
Laurence Elphick from Watcombe said the public were being intimidated. In one incident an out-of-control bike narrowly missed running him over, and he had to hurl himself to the ground before it crashed into a fence.
“This last weekend a group of at least a dozen adults were there racing at ridiculous speeds – doing 50mph at least. These were adult guys in their 30s. I rang the police and was told to get license plate numbers. When I took my phone out to start filming them they moved towards the BMX track – that’s a bicycle track meant for children but I have been told the council are letting them use it to try to keep the trouble down. But that means children can’t use it any more.”
A spokesman for Devon and Cornwall Police said: “This issue has been brought to the attention of the council who are looking at measures with the police to tackle this behaviour.”
Another female dog walker who didn’t want to be named said: “I have had so many bad experiences up there over the last year but the worst was when I saw an old lady with a little dog. She was screaming and crying.
“There were three of them on bikes just circling and circling – and the worst thing was that her little dog was deaf and blind. It was the saddest thing I’ve ever seen.
“She used to go up there regularly but she was so traumatised that she’s never been back – her dog didn’t know what was happening.
“The motorbikers were about 14 to 16 year olds.
“It was like a race track up there earlier this week. There’s a white van that drives up and uploads the bikes.
“But others drive over the road from the estate which is worryingly – they are under-age drivers with no tax or insurance or helmets, crossing the dangerous bend in the main road
“What worries me is safety – somebody is going to get killed. It’s dangerous for dogs, for the public and for the riders.
“They skid about all over the place and they don’t care tuppence.”
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